Writing a research report about Wikimedia Hubs

Regional and thematic Hubs are one of the most important discussion areas related to the Wikimedia 2030 strategy. Although Wikimedians from the same region or having common interests started to collaborate together since a relatively long time, their initiatives were informal, and did not have an official structure related to it. With the upcoming of the new strategy, and its fourth recommendation “Ensure Equity in Decision Making”, prospects of formalizing hubs and starting to implement them came closer. The question was: How?

The Start

Between 2017 and 2021, I participated in several Wikimedia 2030 strategy activities in different roles and capacities (working group member, strategy liaison for Arabic, event organizer, connector, member of the transition team), and joined the global discussions about hubs as I was very interested in them. Yet, I found that the answer to the “how” question was unclear and felt that many of us in the movement did not know what the next step forward was. (Interesting) Ideas were many, but actions were few!

During an informal discussion with members of the movement strategy and governance team, I was encouraged to apply for a strategy rapid grant, that I could use to work on help addressing the problems that I was mentioning. At that moment I was in two minds; From one end I did not have any idea about what to work on, and did not consider myself as the responsible, but from another, I felt challenged and that the ball was in my court. I decided to follow the second mind and did not regret it!

The Work

To initiate my research, I had first to define a scope on what to work about. The bigger picture was that “there is a concept widely endorsed in the movement (hubs), but there is no clear implementation plan”. It was already obvious for me since the beginning that I would not be able to answer all questions about the implementation with a rapid grant funded report produced during the five weeks I took for my summer vacation! However, we had to start somewhere, no? For me that start was by going back to my own context, and I gradually narrowed down the perspective to a “survey of how Arabic-speaking communities see regional hubs”. The formulation of a clear problematic made the work later much smoother and helped defining the milestones and outputs of the report. Moreover, this specific area allowed me to reconnect with several fellow Wikimedians, a much-needed activity in the Covid-19 times 🙂

The research itself had three central themes, which were: (1) Data gathering (by surveying and interviewing community members), (2) Understanding how regional hubs are envisioned by the community (by presenting the answers), and (3) Analyzing and recommending for the future, based on the presented results. 78 Arabic-speaking community members participated in providing insightful feedback either by filling in a survey, answering Facebook polls, or by having 1:1 interviews with me.

Participants answer to the question: Do you need a hub in your region?

After collecting and synthetizing data, I started the analysis part, for which the different opinions were the input, and concrete actions and recommendations would be the output. I separated the information in three different areas: Topics mostly agreed, needing further discussion, or widely disagreed. This classification in table format with colors, was meant to provide a simple and straightforward understanding of the current situation for anyone wanting to learn about it.

Once the opinions were organized into clusters, my earlier background in the strategy and knowledge of the movement were put into use. It did indeed serve to suggest ways forward for the future. These recommendations took into consideration the question (what), its complexity (why), and suggested responsible(s) (who) based on earlier experiences and roles.

The Way Forward

Although there is a big interest in having hubs implemented, the unclarity of process ownership and next steps stands as current blockers. The research report surveying the Arabic-speaking community sheds light on the current challenges experienced in the region and gives suggestions on how to tackle them.

In the future, and in order to advance with the implementation, I can see three axes of work that could be worked on: (1) Similar to how I researched the Arabic-speaking region, I believe that it will be extremely important that other reports are produced for different regions as well as for thematic hubs. We need in fact inputs from all our various contexts and environments to have a complete picture of the situation; (2) Recommendations from the current report could be analyzed and discussed. The purpose of sharing them was to trigger a discussion about the first implementation steps. Having this path activated could be a good work stream; and finally (3) Building on the previous report for the region, a concrete action plan and activities could be prepared specifically by/for the Arabic-speaking community. For this, a consequent amount of time and effort will be needed but would be an investment worth investigating.

Outro

Before engaging in this experience, I did not have any idea about what to work on, given the total uncertainty that I was feeling after each discussion. This survey research helped me to understand better our challenges, but most importantly, to share them, and generate inspiring ideas and opportunities for other community members and fellow Wikimedians to work together on the area. If we want to advance on Hubs implementation, let us support each other and build on our achievements, the same way the biggest encyclopedia in the universe is built every day 🙂

For those interested, you can read the full report here, and contact me through Meta!